Staging the world. Rome and the other in the triumphal procession

University dissertation from Ida Östenberg, Department of Archaeology and Ancient history, Sölvegatan 2, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: The triumphal procession staged Roman conquest and supremacy, featuring the defeated ‘other’ as opposed to the victorious ‘self’ in a rather fixed role-playing. This thesis takes as its theoretical premise that these ritually recurrent and visually emphatic processions both conveyed and constructed Roman views of the self and the other, and that they can be studied as formative expressions of such conceptions. Basically, the thesis is an inquiry into how Rome presented and perceived the subjugated other on triumphal display – the spoils, captives and representations. The study establishes the single displays and interprets them in terms of contents, meaning, function, placing, categorisation, reception and change. Arms, ships and rams, coins and bullion, statues and paintings, art objects, golden crowns, prisoners, hostages, animals and trees are examined in separate chapters, as are the representations made for the occasion, including models and personifications of subdued places and tableaux staging war scenes. The analysis embraces the period between the early 3rd century B.C. and the age of Trajan and takes into use the complete corpus of ancient sources, literary and pictorial. Each chapter forms a unit with its own discussions and results. For example, the chapter dealing with ships and rams includes an analysis of the naval triumphs. The chapter discussing the representations rejects the traditional concept ‘triumphal paintings’ and concludes that conquered cities were primarily shown as models and war scenes as dramatic tableaux. It also shows that the scenes on parade staged the acts of the captives rather than the deeds of the triumphator. The finishing chapter brings together important conclusions and interprets them in their processional, ideological and historic context. It concludes that spoils, captives and representations, forming the group of ‘others’ were staged in marked contrast to all representatives of Rome. It shows that conquest was the major theme in the display of the other, whether the objects and people had been captured by rights of war or received as gifts or hostages, whether they came from the area of vanquishment or beyond. The thesis also concludes that spoils and captives formed the two basic categories in the processional staging of the other. The representations produced for the parade were not perceived as a particular category but they too were staged as or attached to the spoils and captives. The thesis concludes by discussing a few central themes that have become visible through this study: the display of wealth, manifesting both financial and political power, the pronounced exhibition of others (as wild rivers, barbarian Gauls and eastern kings) and the manifestation of Roman world supremacy. It is shown that the triumphs of the 2nd century B.C. manifested world power only implicitly, while the great parades of the late Republic ostentatiously boasted world conquest. In the Imperial period, world mastery rather than conquest was staged, also in triumphs held over limited areas. The development has many parallels, and the study shows that the late Republic was the most expansive period of triumphal displays, reflecting Rome’s confidence in its newly established hegemony.

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